Lot #3019
Wright Brothers Photograph Collection of William Preston Mayfield

Fifty historic Wright Bros. photographs from the collection of William Preston Mayfield, ‘the Mathew Brady of the Air Age'


Fifty historic Wright Bros. photographs from the collection of William Preston Mayfield, ‘the Mathew Brady of the Air Age'

Extraordinary personal album of great early aviation photographer William Preston Mayfield, ‘the Mathew Brady of the Air Age,’ containing 50 vintage gelatin silver photographs, printed circa 1930s, relating to Wilbur and Orville Wright. The photographs show Wright planes in flight and on the ground—including the Model A, Model B, Model E, Model L, a hydroplane, and others—as well as students and instructors at the Wright Flying School at Simms Station in Dayton, Ohio. The photos measure approximately 9.5 x 7.5 and are affixed on both sides of the pages held within the 13 x 10.5 hardcover leather album, many with Mayfield’s handwritten captions below, identifying them with dates between 1909 and 1917. A “Mayfield Photos Inc.” label is affixed to the front pastedown. In very good to fine condition, with edgewear and scuffing to exterior.

This personal album was compiled by, and formerly in the collection of, William Preston Mayfield (1896-1974), the ‘court photographer’ to the Wright Brothers. The album descended to Marvin Christian, who began working with Mayfield in 1954 (when the album had already been printed) and subsequently purchased the contents of his studio in 1967. Christian later published a book about Mayfield’s photographic endeavors, ‘William Preston Mayfield Photographer - Six Decades of Image Making,’ in which he wrote: ‘After five years working experience with Bill Mayfield and a number of years operating my own commercial photo studio I returned to purchase Mayfield’s studio equipment and bill’s entire collection of over 100,000 photographs, glass plates and negatives in 1967. There were many evenings we would get together in the studio and he would help sort the files and relate background stories about the photographs. Occasionally we would come across an old note on a piece of scrap paper that might read ‘need three prints for O. W. [Orville Wright].’ A few times I had to cringe as he would come across a glass plate, look at it carefully, and then slam it against the trash barrel shattering it into hundreds of pieces and say something like, ’That S.O.B. never paid me for that shot!’' The contents of this historic album were exhibited as part of the touring museum exhibition that marked the 100th anniversary of the Wrights’ first flight, ‘Orville & Wilbur: The Wright Brothers’ Legacy,’ put on at the Dayton Art Institute, Virginia Air & Space Center, and Western Canada Aviation Museum in 2003-2004.

Contents of the album (Mayfield's handwritten captions in quotes):
1. “Training Students, Simms Station, 1911”
2. Biplane in flight
3. “King Alphonso of Spain—Wilbur Wright, at Paris, France, Feb. 1909”
4. “Wright Hydroplane, Miami River, 1913”
5. Inherent caption: “Wright’s Flight Around Statue Liberty Copyright 1909 by Geo. Grantham Bain”
6. Biplane in flight
7. “Canadians at Wright School, Simms Station, 1915”
8. “Canadians at Wright School, Simms Station, 1915”
9. “Wright Model E. Simms Station, 1913”
10. “Model E, Simms Station, 1913”
11. “Wright Model L, 1916”
12. “Wright Hydroplane, Miami River, 1913”
13. Biplane in flight
14. “Wright Model A, Simms Station, 1910”
15. “Model B, Training Plane, 1915”
16. “Howard Reinhardt, Instructor Wright School, Simms Station, Model A, 1915”
17. Biplane on ground
18. “Wright Aero Boat, Miami River, Nov. 1913”
19. “Wright Aero Boat, Miami River, 1913”
20. Wright Aero Boat
21. “Wright Hydroplane, Miami River, May 1913”
22. Wright Hydroplane
23. Wright Model EX on display at Memorial Hall, 1917
24. “Memorial Hall at time of presen. Albert Medal to Orville Wright by Lord Northcliff, Oct. 27, 1917, Wright Model EX.”
25. “Wright Model A, Simms Station, 1910”
26. Biplane in flight
27. “Wright Model A, Simms Station, 1910”
28. Biplane in flight
29. Cockpit close-up with pilot
30. “P. O. Parmlee about to start first commercial flight in Wright Model B, Simms Station-to-Columbus, Ohio, carrying bag of silk to Morehouse Martens Co., Nov. 7, 1910, Orville Wright with oil can”
31. Empty cockpit close-up
32. “Model E, Orville Wright taking off, Simms Station, Nov. 1913”
33. Biplane in flight
34. Biplane in flight
35. Ceremony with an older Orville Wright
36. Close-up of pilot
37. “Homecoming Celebration, Dayton Fairgrounds, June 1909”
38. “Model E, Simms Station, 1913”
39. Hydroplane on water
40. “Wright Hydroplane, Miami River, May 1913”
41. “Orville Wright with Hydroplane, Miami River, May 1913”
42. “First Wright plane purchased by US Government, Ft. Myer, VA, July 1909”
43. “Wright Aero Boat, Miami River, 1913”
44. “Wright Hydroplane, Miami River, May 1913”
45. Biplane in flight silhouette
46. Two biplanes in flight
47. “Orville Wright student, Simms Station”
48. “Orville Wright,” seated in plane
49. “Wright Model E, Simms Station, 1913”
50. “Wright Model E, Simms Station, 1913”

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Remarkable Rarities
  • Dates: #536 - Ended September 24, 2018